Beware of Tax Scams

Friday, January 13 at 09:00 AM
Category: Personal Finance
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is! In recent years, thousands of people have lost millions of dollars and their personal information to tax scams and fake IRS communication. Here’s a look at some of these tax scams and what to do if you spot them.
 
Remember: The IRS doesn't initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text messages or social media channels to request personal or financial information. In addition, the IRS does not threaten taxpayers with lawsuits, imprisonment or other enforcement action by email, text messages or social media channels. Being able to recognize these tell-tale signs of a phishing or tax scam could save you from becoming a victim.

IRS-Impersonation Telephone Scams
An aggressive and sophisticated phone scam targeting taxpayers has been making the rounds throughout the country. Callers claim to be employees of the IRS but are not. These con artists can sound convincing when they call. They use fake names and bogus IRS identification badge numbers. They may know a lot about their targets, and they usually alter the caller ID to make it look like the IRS is calling. 
 
Victims are told they owe money to the IRS, and it must be paid promptly through a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. If the victim refuses to cooperate, they are threatened with arrest, deportation, or suspension of a business or driver’s license. Or, victims may be told they have a refund due to try to trick them into sharing private information. If the phone isn't answered, the scammers often leave an “urgent” callback request.
 
Note the IRS will never:
  • Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. Generally, the IRS will first mail you a bill if you owe any taxes.
  • Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
  • Demand you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
Surge in Email, Phishing and Malware Schemes
The IRS saw an approximate 400 percent surge in phishing and malware incidents in the 2016 tax season. Scam emails are designed to trick taxpayers into thinking these are official communications from the IRS or others in the tax industry, including tax software companies. Emails can seek information related to refunds, filing status, confirming personal information, ordering transcripts and verifying PIN information. Variations of these scams can be seen via text messages.

When people click on these email links, they are taken to sites designed to imitate an official-looking website, such as IRS.gov*. The sites ask for Social Security numbers and other personal information, which the scammers could use to help file false tax returns. The sites also may carry malware, which can infect people's computers and allow criminals to access your files or track your keystrokes to gain information from your personal computer.
 
Email Phishing Scam: "Update your IRS e-file"
The IRS is aware of email phishing scams that appear to be from the IRS and include a link to a bogus website intended to mirror the official IRS website. These emails contain the direction “you are to update your IRS e-file immediately.” The emails mention USA.gov and IRSgov (without a dot between "IRS" and "gov"), though notably, not IRS.gov* (with a dot). Don’t get scammed. These emails are not from the IRS.

What do you do if you get these messages?
  • Do not respond to the email or click on the links.
  • Instead, forward the scam emails to the IRS at phishing@irs.gov.
For more information, visit the IRS's Report Phishing* web page.
 
Tax Refund Scam Artists Posing as Taxpayer Advocacy Panel
According to the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel (TAP), taxpayers are receiving emails that appear to be from TAP about a tax refund. These emails are a phishing scam, where unsolicited emails which seem to come from legitimate organizations — but are really from scammers — try to trick unsuspecting victims into providing personal and financial information. Do not respond or click the links in them. If you receive an email that appears to be from TAP regarding your personal tax information, please forward it to phishing@irs.gov and note that it seems to be a scam email phishing for your information.

TAP is a volunteer board that advises the IRS on systemic issues affecting taxpayers. It never requests, and does not have access to, any taxpayer’s personal and financial information such as Social Security numbers, PINs or passwords and similar information for credit cards, banks or other financial institutions.

Don’t Fall Victim and Help Others Not to Fall Victim
Educate yourself on tax telephone scams and various tax email phishing scams including malware schemes to avoid falling victim to a scammer’s tactics. Learn more* about specific tax-related scams.

Check out* the various types of tax-related illegal activities and how to report these activities. You may also report instances of IRS-related phishing attempts and fraud to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at (800) 366-4484.

Information courtesy of IRS.

Links marked with * go to a third-party site not operated or endorsed by Arvest Bank, an FDIC-insured institution. 

Tags: Consumer Protection, Financial Education, Fraud Alert, Tax
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